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Advice needed for student interested in mental health

Hello,

I have an interest in studying loneliness specifically: how it affects us humans socially and psychologically, and moreover what is being done about those findings. However, I am unsure about which degree program would be more suitable for this study: a degree in psychology or sociology? I have studied both at A-level, and enjoyed both, although I hold a favouritism for sociology. I have my exact courses picked out at a specific university. Both are courses which take a more applied approach to the subjects, though they do cover theory as well.

I have considered that mental health is primarily a psychological field, but as mentioned I favour sociology, and I do have other academic interests in both subjects beyond just mental health. I also would like to take an intersectional approach to my studies, considering factors such as gender, age, sexuality, religion, disability, and social class, as well as mental illness, instituions and their histories (such as psychiatry). This is why I'm a bit stuck on how to proceed. Which subject gives me a greater medium to explore this huge topic? What angle would serve me best? I think the answer might be sociology, but I can only guess.

I'd like to work in helping to alliviate loneliness in society, whether that be on the ground face to face or at a desk or however else i might be able to help. Can anyone with experience in either of these subjects help me answer this question? I have until June 2024 to figure it out.

Thanks for any responses, they are greatly appreciated 😊

P.s - not sure where this post should be
I like your post.

As you are aware lonliness is a massive subject, and both are relevant. The difference between psychology and sociology will be depending on whether you want to look at a macro or micro level, but at your stage you need to consider that undergrad degrees are basically just broad academic platforms for further study and work (all of which will be happening at the postgrad level and beyond). Consider them like a tutorial mission of the lonliness videogame.

Some may point out that doing a BPS approved psychology degree will enable you to go onto a professional psychology career, but that is also a double edges sword in your situation. If you are dedicated to focussing on lonliness you will have to do a whole range of compulsory irrelevant training in the next 10 years if you say went down a clinical psychology pathway (e.g. Neuropsychology, learning disabilities core training) and you would only be focussing on lonliness specifically after you finish your doctorate which will be about 8-10 years away.

Compare that with a more focussed pathway where you go from undergraduate degree to postgraduate/ relevant work or a PhD/Post doc that is 100% about lonliness, and the next 10 years are a entirely different experience. You will have the 3 years of generic broad undergrad, and then get straight into what you are interested in.

Ultimately there is no clear answer to this but I would consider the following at your stage. Where is the cutting edge research and loneliness work being done? Who are the big names in the loneliness field, and whose work are you drawn to. Look at that and then work backwards and look at how they got to where they are. That should be a guide. You may even be able to contact them directly and see what they think.
Reply 2
Original post by Lord Asriel
I like your post.
As you are aware lonliness is a massive subject, and both are relevant. The difference between psychology and sociology will be depending on whether you want to look at a macro or micro level, but at your stage you need to consider that undergrad degrees are basically just broad academic platforms for further study and work (all of which will be happening at the postgrad level and beyond). Consider them like a tutorial mission of the lonliness videogame.
Some may point out that doing a BPS approved psychology degree will enable you to go onto a professional psychology career, but that is also a double edges sword in your situation. If you are dedicated to focussing on lonliness you will have to do a whole range of compulsory irrelevant training in the next 10 years if you say went down a clinical psychology pathway (e.g. Neuropsychology, learning disabilities core training) and you would only be focussing on lonliness specifically after you finish your doctorate which will be about 8-10 years away.
Compare that with a more focussed pathway where you go from undergraduate degree to postgraduate/ relevant work or a PhD/Post doc that is 100% about lonliness, and the next 10 years are a entirely different experience. You will have the 3 years of generic broad undergrad, and then get straight into what you are interested in.
Ultimately there is no clear answer to this but I would consider the following at your stage. Where is the cutting edge research and loneliness work being done? Who are the big names in the loneliness field, and whose work are you drawn to. Look at that and then work backwards and look at how they got to where they are. That should be a guide. You may even be able to contact them directly and see what they think.

Thanks for that advice. It seems like a true nugget of wisdom. As a gamer I also appreciated the metaphor, lol.

So, the macro and the micro. The difficulty in decisively choosing one subject over another is that I want my hands in both perspectives. From reading up on the topic of lonliness as best I can by myself, in both the sociology of mental health and social psychology, I think it's... psychological theory with sociological application. But it's not so clear cut. Lonliness could be explored in relation to A.I studies in sociology, or globalisation, and this is what kind of... fascinates me? The systemetisation of lonliness into the fabric of our social interactions via social media seems to be a sociological inquiry, as it is a characteristic of society. A part of me is especially interested in studying institutions, beliefs from cultural to internal to philosophical to scientific, educational systems, systems of work and health care, and chiefly social systems like social media. What is the future of lonliness? What were the differences between lonliness now and sixty years ago, and what will the differences be sixty years from now? How do we carefully reorganise our society to allieviate the present societal symptoms of lonliness and avert possible future crises?

That all sounds very sociological to me. But psychology is an undeniable component to whatever the answers could be. I know in the sociology of mental health that psychology and psychiatry are very much a locus of inquiry.

Taking your advice on board, this is what I'm thinking... Sociology for undergraduate, psychology for post graduate if necessary, or if that's the direction I want to take. A psychology conversion course, or even a college course in counselling and mental health, seem widely available across many universities. Sociology masters introducing that ease of a transition seem rarer. Most are to do with social policy, looks like. I might not get another chance to study a degree again, or another degree with the same level of clarity or comfort. Who knows. My thinking is to hold the keys to as many doors as I can, so that their opening remains a possibility. Because the one thing that characterises people is change. One thing both disciplines teach lol.

So yeah, not entirely sure, but I think my heart's secretly made its mind up. I'm kind of making a case for Sociology, but that might not be right. At the end of the day, the thing that gets me is that I could easily have my mind changed by just living life. A new perspective through new experiences. If I want to do a good job, I'll probably end up studying them both anyway.

What do you/any one else think? Thanks again for your advice, it clears my head 😊
While the types of questions you raise are more sociology, in reality you will need to be at least aware if not competent in both. Everyone who works in the field starts off broad and shallow but ends up getting narrow and deep. To that end your first step matters less than your endgame, in the same way the first choice when you level up in an RPG is less important to fret about than being aware about the overall build you are trying to make. What you are talking about in your second paragraph will take several people several lifetimes to work through, so your eventual position will be to pick a small doable area and going all in on that.

To be fair I was quite similar at your stage. For me to get that breadth, three years of protected study time at undergrad was how I got exposed to the ideas and concepts. Though my degree was psychology, I did open modules in things like sociology, politics and economics and gatecrashed a few lectures that weren't psychology. I spoke to students from other disciplines and attended their events to learn more about their fields. I was like a sponge for information, and it really helped I didn't get too hung up on grades (as I was there to learn ideas, not just get a job; still did well in the end) and wasn't into the drinking and partying 'student experience' as much as others.

Your university membership will allow you to read a huge variety of academic journals and textbooks. It's not just who you read but it will be about who you meet whether it is academics at your own university but also conferences and other avenues. Ironically that's where I did most of my drinking and socialising, only the booze is better and the people you meet become your future collaborators or end up paying you. Loneliness is very much an interdisciplinary topic and (fittingly) it's not something that one person can do on their own.
It may seem a bit random but what about something related to public health post graduation if you want to go down the more applied route rather than research? The whole thing on 'social prescribing' is more prevalent now and seems to be related to what you are describing
Reply 5
Original post by Lord Asriel
While the types of questions you raise are more sociology, in reality you will need to be at least aware if not competent in both. Everyone who works in the field starts off broad and shallow but ends up getting narrow and deep. To that end your first step matters less than your endgame, in the same way the first choice when you level up in an RPG is less important to fret about than being aware about the overall build you are trying to make. What you are talking about in your second paragraph will take several people several lifetimes to work through, so your eventual position will be to pick a small doable area and going all in on that.
To be fair I was quite similar at your stage. For me to get that breadth, three years of protected study time at undergrad was how I got exposed to the ideas and concepts. Though my degree was psychology, I did open modules in things like sociology, politics and economics and gatecrashed a few lectures that weren't psychology. I spoke to students from other disciplines and attended their events to learn more about their fields. I was like a sponge for information, and it really helped I didn't get too hung up on grades (as I was there to learn ideas, not just get a job; still did well in the end) and wasn't into the drinking and partying 'student experience' as much as others.
Your university membership will allow you to read a huge variety of academic journals and textbooks. It's not just who you read but it will be about who you meet whether it is academics at your own university but also conferences and other avenues. Ironically that's where I did most of my drinking and socialising, only the booze is better and the people you meet become your future collaborators or end up paying you. Loneliness is very much an interdisciplinary topic and (fittingly) it's not something that one person can do on their own.
So although an undergraduate degree is foundationally important it doesn't define your academic/career opportunities. Networking is important. Creatively reading around the specific subject is also important. And the specific content the lecturers cover from their own research is also quite important.

From what I've researched about the courses I'm interested in at this stage, the sociology faculty are doing research that are more relevant to my specific interests (Mental health in contexts of youth, future of AI, and philosophical interpretations of general wellbeing in relation to society). Apart from the fact that it looks like a really well-organised course whose modules are linked and build off one another, it just seems like my kind of course in how holistic its approach to the subjects is.

The other course in psychology also has a really good reputation and an even tighter module layout. Not as diverse and exciting as the sociology one, but it's BPS accredited. Of course if I studied psychology I'd been in a good position to go clinical or social psychological and cover that perspective of lonliness. But the research being done in that psychology department at the uni isn't specifically relevant to my interests.

My UG program, as you said, doesn't have to immediately be all about lonliness because that comes later. I think if this is the case then I'd like to take advantage of this and look at all that intersectionality at UG, you know really survey the different topics the subject has available to me and drawing those links to lonliness and mental health for myself. I understand that given how massive the human world is I'll have the opportunity only to make small change and at best encourage large ones alongside many others, but I think I'd be content with this. Everyone needs all the help they can get.

Also, if you don't mind me asking, what got you into psychology and where has it taken you postgrad? Thanks again, your advice/wisdom is much appreciated 😊
Reply 6
Original post by Interrobang
It may seem a bit random but what about something related to public health post graduation if you want to go down the more applied route rather than research? The whole thing on 'social prescribing' is more prevalent now and seems to be related to what you are describing
Yes, upon looking into it that does seem like a possibility. Only problem is that I'm crossing a different bridge atm. I don't really have that amount of confident foresight to seriously consider anything beyond undergrad yet, because I know how fallable I am to misinterpreting my own wants. Besides, it seems to be like counselling and psychotherapy with social prescribing where life experience are just as important as qualifications. But thanks for the suggestion because once I've got this decision out of the way I can consider that more strongly 😅

I'm also not sure about how I would get into that role. Would it be straight through public health, do you know? Thanks for taking the time to respond 😊
Original post by Cocoof
So although an undergraduate degree is foundationally important it doesn't define your academic/career opportunities. Networking is important. Creatively reading around the specific subject is also important. And the specific content the lecturers cover from their own research is also quite important.
From what I've researched about the courses I'm interested in at this stage, the sociology faculty are doing research that are more relevant to my specific interests (Mental health in contexts of youth, future of AI, and philosophical interpretations of general wellbeing in relation to society). Apart from the fact that it looks like a really well-organised course whose modules are linked and build off one another, it just seems like my kind of course in how holistic its approach to the subjects is.
The other course in psychology also has a really good reputation and an even tighter module layout. Not as diverse and exciting as the sociology one, but it's BPS accredited. Of course if I studied psychology I'd been in a good position to go clinical or social psychological and cover that perspective of lonliness. But the research being done in that psychology department at the uni isn't specifically relevant to my interests.
My UG program, as you said, doesn't have to immediately be all about lonliness because that comes later. I think if this is the case then I'd like to take advantage of this and look at all that intersectionality at UG, you know really survey the different topics the subject has available to me and drawing those links to lonliness and mental health for myself. I understand that given how massive the human world is I'll have the opportunity only to make small change and at best encourage large ones alongside many others, but I think I'd be content with this. Everyone needs all the help they can get.
Also, if you don't mind me asking, what got you into psychology and where has it taken you postgrad? Thanks again, your advice/wisdom is much appreciated 😊

Got into psychology after reading various books and getting interested in the overall subject. It wasn't offered as an A Level at my school, but felt it fitted my worldview. As an undergrad that breadth made me feel that it was just an intro and 3 years wouldn't be enough, so would need further study and experience.

As I went along and got into my particular area I realised that I was going to end up as an applied scientist of some kind which would need a research element (via a PhD) and a practitioner training (e.g. Clinical Psychology, Medicine or pharmacy).

My own pathway started in 1997 with Undergrad Psych then: ->Reserach assistant->PhD Psych->Post doc->Clinical Psychology Training (DClinPsy)-> NHS Clinical jobs->Research and NHS Clinical Psychologist post -> Service lead.

I am lucky that the clinical service that I set up is also a pilot clinical research project so is governed by university and NHS. My post has both research and clinical aspects in addition to management, which includes hosting undergrads/trainees (which is why being on here is helpful). Theoretically, I could have ended up in a similar place via other routes, but am happy with the choices I made.
(edited 2 months ago)
Reply 8
Psychology all the way ( i am a psychology student so i may be biased)
But as you mentioned you have a specific interest in loneliness, well in psychology (a bps accredited course) you will be able to run your own study on loneliness, many students are even able to publish those findings after graduation!
Psychology is normally quite favourable in terms of employment too, loads of opportunities, psychologists work everywhere there are people. It would put less blocks in your way when compared to sociology as Psychology is a much larger topic (which should also cover social psychology)

Hope this helps!
Original post by Cocoof
Yes, upon looking into it that does seem like a possibility. Only problem is that I'm crossing a different bridge atm. I don't really have that amount of confident foresight to seriously consider anything beyond undergrad yet, because I know how fallable I am to misinterpreting my own wants. Besides, it seems to be like counselling and psychotherapy with social prescribing where life experience are just as important as qualifications. But thanks for the suggestion because once I've got this decision out of the way I can consider that more strongly 😅
I'm also not sure about how I would get into that role. Would it be straight through public health, do you know? Thanks for taking the time to respond 😊
I'm not sure how you get into it I'm afraid, just had a director of PH do a talk that I saw one day! Sounds like you've got some options to consider though, which is good :smile:
Reply 10
Original post by Lord Asriel
Got into psychology after reading various books and getting interested in the overall subject. It wasn't offered as an A Level at my school, but felt it fitted my worldview. As an undergrad that breadth made me feel that it was just an intro and 3 years wouldn't be enough, so would need further study and experience.
As I went along and got into my particular area I realised that I was going to end up as an applied scientist of some kind which would need a research element (via a PhD) and a practitioner training (e.g. Clinical Psychology, Medicine or pharmacy).
My own pathway started in 1997 with Undergrad Psych then: ->Reserach assistant->PhD Psych->Post doc->Clinical Psychology Training (DClinPsy)-> NHS Clinical jobs->Research and NHS Clinical Psychologist post -> Service lead.
I am lucky that the clinical service that I set up is also a pilot clinical research project so is governed by university and NHS. My post has both research and clinical aspects in addition to management, which includes hosting undergrads/trainees (which is why being on here is helpful). Theoretically, I could have ended up in a similar place via other routes, but am happy with the choices I made.
It sounds to me like you discovered your current path. You didn't exactly forsee where it would go, but you still followed your interests and things unfolded in a way that made sense to you. If I'm reading you right, then that's really interesting. You took a gamble on a subject based off of your interest and its lead you to a good place.

Although not a perfect rule for decision making, I feel like this might be my best modus operandi at the moment. Whether Psychology or Sociology is the right choice for me Might be something I can only discover, not know ahead of time. It's so difficult to find a criteria that I'm satisfied will help me make this choice and leave me feeling validated.

Besides, I'm also incredibly indecisive in general, so that doesn't help 🙃

Thanks again for your response 👍 I've still got some time to think on things, fortunately.
Reply 11
Original post by Interrobang
I'm not sure how you get into it I'm afraid, just had a director of PH do a talk that I saw one day! Sounds like you've got some options to consider though, which is good :smile:
Ah okay, thanks for the suggestion regardless ☺️
Reply 12
Original post by Autumn223
Psychology all the way ( i am a psychology student so i may be biased)
But as you mentioned you have a specific interest in loneliness, well in psychology (a bps accredited course) you will be able to run your own study on loneliness, many students are even able to publish those findings after graduation!
Psychology is normally quite favourable in terms of employment too, loads of opportunities, psychologists work everywhere there are people. It would put less blocks in your way when compared to sociology as Psychology is a much larger topic (which should also cover social psychology)
Hope this helps!
Hey 👋 thanks for your message.

So, I understand those elements of psychology that you mentioned, and whilst I am attracted to the idea of conducting my own psychological study, I'm not sure if the way psychology encourages me to explore the topic will be to my preference. For example, I'm very interested in exploring and critically discussing the philosophies behind certain theoretical traditions, as well as practical procedures, and the history of the institutions and theorists involved in their implementation.

Besides this, I'd like to ask about what got you to pursue psychology and where it has led you so far, if you don't mind? Thanks 😊
Original post by Cocoof
Hey 👋 thanks for your message.
So, I understand those elements of psychology that you mentioned, and whilst I am attracted to the idea of conducting my own psychological study, I'm not sure if the way psychology encourages me to explore the topic will be to my preference. For example, I'm very interested in exploring and critically discussing the philosophies behind certain theoretical traditions, as well as practical procedures, and the history of the institutions and theorists involved in their implementation.
Besides this, I'd like to ask about what got you to pursue psychology and where it has led you so far, if you don't mind? Thanks 😊
If you choose a BPS accredited psychology degree it is mandatory to take part in a module called CHIPS :smile: which is a whole module dedicated to the philosophical side of psychology. You get to talk about old philosophical theories about psychology and its quite interesting!

Of course I don’t mind! I took Clinical Psychology at Undergraduate because i wanted to join a career I could make a difference in. My parents have told me from being a kid to pick a career that when you retire you can look back and see what you changed. For me i grew a love into psychology and originally thought id join the NHS in psychology.
However since studying psychology Ive gained a love for forensic psychology and the paths it opens up for me, so I’m actually starting a Forensic Psychology MSc this September.
My core value is still the same I really want to make a difference and with psychology it’s such a growing and limitless field, It feels easier to make those differences.
Psychology opens doors, and its a subject that’s definitely growing in the respect it receives from others too.
Reply 14
Original post by Lord Asriel
Got into psychology after reading various books and getting interested in the overall subject. It wasn't offered as an A Level at my school, but felt it fitted my worldview. As an undergrad that breadth made me feel that it was just an intro and 3 years wouldn't be enough, so would need further study and experience.
As I went along and got into my particular area I realised that I was going to end up as an applied scientist of some kind which would need a research element (via a PhD) and a practitioner training (e.g. Clinical Psychology, Medicine or pharmacy).
My own pathway started in 1997 with Undergrad Psych then: ->Reserach assistant->PhD Psych->Post doc->Clinical Psychology Training (DClinPsy)-> NHS Clinical jobs->Research and NHS Clinical Psychologist post -> Service lead.
I am lucky that the clinical service that I set up is also a pilot clinical research project so is governed by university and NHS. My post has both research and clinical aspects in addition to management, which includes hosting undergrads/trainees (which is why being on here is helpful). Theoretically, I could have ended up in a similar place via other routes, but am happy with the choices I made.

Hello there,

I read your responses and I believe you have adequate knowledge about the subject and can help me out.

I am an international student with an undergraduate degree in psychology. I am starting my Msc in clinical psychology this September and I really want to work in a role as close to clinical psychologist as possible.

Since Msc clinical psychology is not accredited and even my undergrad degree is not accredited, do you think I will not be able to find a job in mental health care after my Msc in clinical psychology?

I am already spending a fortune for the Msc degree and not getting a job after that will wreck my life.
Original post by Cocoof
Thanks for that advice. It seems like a true nugget of wisdom. As a gamer I also appreciated the metaphor, lol.
So, the macro and the micro. The difficulty in decisively choosing one subject over another is that I want my hands in both perspectives. From reading up on the topic of lonliness as best I can by myself, in both the sociology of mental health and social psychology, I think it's... psychological theory with sociological application. But it's not so clear cut. Lonliness could be explored in relation to A.I studies in sociology, or globalisation, and this is what kind of... fascinates me? The systemetisation of lonliness into the fabric of our social interactions via social media seems to be a sociological inquiry, as it is a characteristic of society. A part of me is especially interested in studying institutions, beliefs from cultural to internal to philosophical to scientific, educational systems, systems of work and health care, and chiefly social systems like social media. What is the future of lonliness? What were the differences between lonliness now and sixty years ago, and what will the differences be sixty years from now? How do we carefully reorganise our society to allieviate the present societal symptoms of lonliness and avert possible future crises?
That all sounds very sociological to me. But psychology is an undeniable component to whatever the answers could be. I know in the sociology of mental health that psychology and psychiatry are very much a locus of inquiry.
Taking your advice on board, this is what I'm thinking... Sociology for undergraduate, psychology for post graduate if necessary, or if that's the direction I want to take. A psychology conversion course, or even a college course in counselling and mental health, seem widely available across many universities. Sociology masters introducing that ease of a transition seem rarer. Most are to do with social policy, looks like. I might not get another chance to study a degree again, or another degree with the same level of clarity or comfort. Who knows. My thinking is to hold the keys to as many doors as I can, so that their opening remains a possibility. Because the one thing that characterises people is change. One thing both disciplines teach lol.
So yeah, not entirely sure, but I think my heart's secretly made its mind up. I'm kind of making a case for Sociology, but that might not be right. At the end of the day, the thing that gets me is that I could easily have my mind changed by just living life. A new perspective through new experiences. If I want to do a good job, I'll probably end up studying them both anyway.
What do you/any one else think? Thanks again for your advice, it clears my head 😊

What unis are you looking at? I think I might’ve heard of a few courses that might interest you.
Reply 16
Original post by em141004
What unis are you looking at? I think I might’ve heard of a few courses that might interest you.

Cardiff chiefly but what are your suggestions

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